Why Blog?

Long time no see.

I think about writing a blog post, but when it comes right down to doing it, I’m either at the day job, working on my next book, promoting my latest book or eating and sleeping. But today, I realized just how much my blog posts have enhanced my writing life, and maybe even helped one or two of my dear readers. Here’s what I mean:

Beginning in April, with the release of MURDER GONE MISSING, I started my book tour, which meant I had the pleasure of giving a few talks. But what to talk about? That’s where my blog posts came in handy.

For my first stop, I appeared at an authors’ luncheon where I had to speak for two minutes or less about me and my books. I browsed through my blog posts and came up with my speech. I used the same speech (with a little bit of alteration) at the Malice Domestic Conference’s author speed dating where I visited twenty tables of ten listeners to talk about my books.

Fast forward a month or so, and my talks expanded. Which meant my blog posts were even more handy. After all, my whole writing journey appears in various forms in posts.

And where do you think I go when I need writing motivation? That’s right – first, I read quotes from BIG time authors, but eventually, I make my way to my blog posts and remember how wonderful I felt when writing my first book, and how I managed to get it done in the past. Which reminds me that I can do it again.

When the day arrived where I co-led a workshop at a writers’ conference, I knew where to go for material. I needed to do quite a bit of talking; two and one-half hours’ worth. It was during my preparation for that workshop that I felt most grateful for all the time I spent writing my blog posts. At my workshop session, I harbored the hope that what I had to share would entertain, educate and inspire other writers.
They looked happy to me. What do you think?

Writing Through the Fear

It’s no secret that we writers suffer bouts of fear now and then (maybe even more than just now and then) while we’re writing. I’m not talking about the kind of fear where the heart is pounding so hard it’s about to burst through the rib-cage. I’m talking the garden variety fear that prevents forward movement or progress. As much as I love gardens, we don’t want that kind of fear or any other variety in our lives.

Recently, I participated in a Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference Workshop designed to guide writers through and past any fears, and to forge ahead and carry on their writing. Fear-free. Here’s a summary of the outcome – plenty of solid suggestions to overcome fear to reach those two, oh-so-sweet words, “The End”:

– Free-write whatever your heart desires, or rant about the fear;
– Devise a ritual to get into the writing zone;
– Have you tried meditation or yoga to free the mind? Now may be a prime time to give it a go to make the fear disappear;
– Write right after waking up in the morning, and before doing anything else, while the mind is clear and open (unless you wake up from a distressing dream that’s hard to shake; if that happens skip this step and try again another time;
– Research (scan headlines or brainstorm) to shoo away the fear;
– Exercise. Movement can work wonders to free the mind and get you in the zone;
– Take a shower or bath to start the creative juices flowing;
– Try visualizing how marvelous you’ll feel once you’re done writing;
– Take on a writing prompt;
– Use tech tools to prevent distractions from thrashing around your writing life (e.g., writeordie.com, for instance);
– Create a special space just for your characters to “live” and “breathe”, to help bring them to life; and
– When all else fails, read for inspiration. Reading encourages words to flow through your head, crowding out any fears.

What Makes a Good Writers' Conference Great?

I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few writers’ conferences, eight to be exact, and they all had the same necessary ingredient that makes a conference successful: opportunity.
Here are a few examples:

– The chance to meet and mingle with other authors, readers, agents, publishers and inspiring people in the biz. For instance, at the Malice Domestic Conference in Maryland, I met wonderful “friends” I’d only known via social media, as well as lovely, award winning bloggers. I also met wonderful actors, big-time authors, and my very own publisher.

– The opportunity to discover important material to carry around long after the Conference is over. For instance, I was an audience member for “Murder at the Improv” featuring these exceptional authors: Hank Phillippi Ryan, Sheila Connolly, Barbara Ross and the indefatigable Parnell Hall. It was a brilliant, talented panel who played off each other well in explaining the elements needed for a good mystery. In fact, it was so nicely done, that I borrowed the idea and used it at a recent Sisters in Crime Central Coast conference. It was a hit!

– Seeing your book in the hands of dear readers. There’s nothing quite like it! I’d just left the Malice bookstore when I happened upon a reader and her friend who were holding my latest novel. Such an exciting moment for me! Of course, I had to stop, and we had a lovely chat. Turns out they live in So Cal and were interested because I write a So Cal Mystery series. I couldn’t have asked for more than that.

– There’s usually a breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or banquet to meet published and unpublished writers. Sisters in Crime hosted some of these at Malice and they were fun. Being a member of such a phenomenally helpful group provides a strong bond that turns strangers into instant friends.

Conferences can be action-packed (not unlike some novels), and the time may come to retreat and regenerate. That’s what hotel rooms, cars, and exercise are for. Walks are particularly wonderful. Who doesn’t like to take in new sights and sounds? Is there a downside to attending? The cost perhaps, but most conferences offer scholarships to attend as well as volunteer opportunities. My writing life started because I volunteered at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference and won a scholarship to the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Wonderful opportunities can make conference attending a must.